DoD Releases Two Policy Changes Affecting Non-Citizens and MAVNI

Alexander J. Segal's picture

On October 13, 2017, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued a press release titled “DoD Announces Policy Changes to Lawful Permanent Residents and the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) Pilot Program” [PDF version]. Before reading, please see our recent articles on security risks that led to the suspension of the MAVNI program [see blog] and the recommendations within the DoD to terminate the program altogether [see blog].

The press release explains that the DoD has released two policies regarding the MAVNI program “that will affect foreign nationals entering the military or who are already in the military…”

Characterization of Service

The first change involves initial security and suitability screening for green card holders. Under the new policy, “all green card holders must complete a background investigation and receive a favorable military determination prior to entering any component of the armed forces.” Under the previous rules, “green card holders could ship to basic military training as long as background investigations were initiated.” The DoD noted that the background checks for green card holders under that policy were not distinguishable from those for U.S. citizens. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) stated that the new policy may lead to delays for green card holders entering the military.

The second change announced in the press release specifically affects individuals in the MAVNI program and green card holders. The DoD is creating a “qualifying service standard for the purposes of rendering honorable service designation for foreign nationals so they can pursue expedited [naturalization].” The DoD explained that all members of the armed services receive a characterization of service after 180 days of service. This honorable service recommendation is a prerequisite to pursuing expedited naturalization for military service. The press release states that the previous policy of the DoD allowed for the granting of the honorable service determination “after 'as little a[s] a few days in boot camp…”

Part of the purpose of the second change is to align the honorable service policies for non-citizens with those for citizens. The DoD stated that “[i]t doesn't make a whole lot of sense for us to wait to give a characterization of service for [U.S. citizens] at 180 days, but for non-U.S. citizens … well short of 180 days.” Accordingly, under the new rule, non-citizens will always be required to complete basic military training and 180 days of service for a characterization of service determination.

For those serving in reserve components, the requirements for a characterization of service determination will be to finish basic military training and have served for “one satisfactory federal year.” The DoD explained that this would include the requirements that “[t]he individual drilled successfully, he achieved all of his points, he did two weeks of annual training and achieved one good federal year.” Provided that these requirements are met, the DoD would provide the form indicating honorable service that the individual could include in his or her application packet to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

In conclusion, the DoD explained that it is changing its policies “because some individuals received citizenship before background investigations were completed.” For those who received screenings that would now be considered inadequate — citizens and non-citizens alike — the DoD will nullify any resulting certifications and re-certify after the new screenings are completed.

The DoD statement does not provide an update on the continuing status of MAVNI besides introducing new general screening requirements. We hope that the changes represent the beginning of a process that will address those enrolled in MAVNI who have carefully followed the program requirements and who represent no security risk. We will update the website with more information on MAVNI as it becomes available.

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